brain blog

I have a few thoughts to catch up.   As you know, Stephen Hawking died last week.  the biopic movie about his life was run on TV a day or so later.  I watched; I hadn’t seen it, and it answered some of the questions I had been pondering since I learned of his death.  I wonder if anyone remembers the movie Marvin’s Room (1996)I had to look it up to get my facts straight because the only thing I remembered beyond the soap opera quality of the story was the criticism of the conclusion.  Marvin, played by Hume Cronyn, who was a friend and probably the reason I went to see the film, is a bed-ridden stroke victim cared for by one of his daughters until she learns she has leukemia. She reaches out to her sister with a plea for bone marrow -a  dramatic reason for a family reunion. Okay, this is what I remember, that  rather than put Marvin into a long-term care facility, they – one of of them – will go on keeping him at home. It’s a full-time job, a full-time sacrifice, but it’s a Hollywood ending, supposed to make you feel good.  The critics liked it a lot (good cast including Meryl Streep and Diane Keaton who earned an Oscar).  But I read a letter to the editor questioning the reality of the decision , going into detail about the enormous work entailed, involving daily laundry to keep up with the incontinence and spoon-feeding and patience and subservience to his increasing need.

I thought of that movie when I read of Hawking’s death. He had ALS, as everyone knows – “Lou Gehrig’s disease” – a complete disintegration of the body before death.  As his disease progressed, how trying and how expensive it must have been , to keep the body functions performing or substituted.  My son was at UofT  when the Science students invited Hawking to speak to them.  He agreed, no fee required. However, the expenses for the entourage had to be paid  – all the people plus equipment required to keep the genius functioning.  It was necessary to organize a sizable  fund-raiser to meet the financial demand.

I thought of this and wondered at what must have been the incredible cost of keeping Hawking alive for some 50 years past his prognosis.  Worth it, of  course,  for his genius to have given so much to the world.  He was aware (or the screenwriter was aware) of this. In the scene when the young (age 20) man is given his diagnosis and his death sentence with a harrowing description of the breakdown of  his body, he asks, “The brain?” 

The brain.

The brain would keep on but with no means of communicating.  He received the means and we are all so grateful. 

To whom much is given, much is required

Luke 12:48: "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required